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Car camera market keeps on rolling

Posted: 04 Nov 2009 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:automotive? camera? image sensor?

The market for cameras in vehicles is constantly changing as automotive system suppliers, camera suppliers and image sensor makers all strive to grab a slice of one of the few areas of growth in the automotive industry.

The supplier landscape has become more complex over the last two years. Increasingly, the major system suppliers are developing their own camera modules. At the same time, new and highly specialized suppliers are coming to market, delivering the whole application package. All in all, there are some 20-25 suppliers active in this area, with camera modules or vision systems either in development or production. Despite this only a handful of them currently have contracts and are in production.

According to a recently published report by IMS Research on The World Market for Automotive Camera Modules, the top three camera module suppliers together accounted for nearly 80 percent of the 2008 market. These suppliers are by no means in a comfortable position, as they face fierce competition from hungry suppliers with new and, what they claim, more advanced technology. One of these new, highly specialized companies is Adasens, a joint venture between Omron, the Japanese automotive electronics manufacturer, and Ficosa the Spanish automotive systems and components manufacturer.

There is currently even more turbulence in the supply of automotive image sensors than there is of camera modules and systems. In 2007, image sensor supply to the automotive market was relatively fragmented, with a mix of "new" suppliers to this sector, including several start-ups, and of established automotive suppliers. However, as with the whole image sensor market, the automotive field has seen many suppliers come and go over the last few years, without the actual number of active suppliers significantly changing. So while some suppliers left the market many others, in particular sensor manufacturers who had been successful in mobile phones, started to look at the emerging automotive market.

However, the requirements of vehicles are very different from those of cellphones. Not only do vehicles demand systems with a long life; the systems must also be very reliable and operate in much harsher environments. The automotive image sensor market is still very, very small compared with the whole image sensor market. In 2009, 18.4 million security cameras are predicted to be shipped, and the number of mobile handsets shipped with cameras will be over 800 million. In sharp contrast, only 4.7 million camera modules will be shipped in light vehicles. The question remains if new entrants to the automotive image sensor market, such as Sharp, will reap the rewards of their development efforts or will they leave the market as have so many before them.

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